Friday, December 02, 2016

Attempting to perfect LSD training


I'm reading a book by Rich Englehart: 'SLOW JOE: Joe Henderson and his LSD (long, slow distance) writings that changed running' — it's about author Joe Henderson and features his seminal book of 1969, 'Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train.' For those who don't know, Henderson was Editor-in-Chief at Runner's World in 1969, ran his first race in 1958 and ran in university with coaches that believed interval training and hard sessions produced fast runners — the philosophy being 'the only way to race fast is to train fast' and 'running long and slow will make you a long slow runner.'

In high school Joe Henderson didn't finish his first mile race (after a 69 second first lap) and ran 5:25 in his second. He read in Track and Field News and Long Distance Log about how his Olympic heroes trained. The New Zealanders under Arthur Lydiard ran 100-mile weeks so Joe decided to run half that, averaging seven-plus miles a day. In his final high school race he ran the mile in 4:22.2. In university Joe struggled under a regime of intense interval workouts and rather than improving, his time for the mile slowed. He took a month off and during that time, missed running and decided that he never wanted to stop again. He realised that gentle running and LSD training was the only way to make running last beyond university. In his final year he ran 4:18.2 for the mile off LSD training and was in shape to run 4:10 but suffered a calf injury that ended his season.

Joe Henderson discovered that his sweet spot percentage of fast running was between 5 and 10 percent of total weekly mileage. He raced regularly and these races were his fast running. The rest of his 'training' was done at a gentle at 7:30 to 8-minute mile pace (4:40 to 5:00 per km), this for a runner who raced the mile at 2:40 per kilometre. Joe's training in those days is not unlike that of Ed Whitlock now — long easy running with short races as the only speedwork.

I've realised that my training since coming back from the calf injury has been very similar to Henderson's LSD. Long Slow Distance, with regular short races as the only speedwork. I've averaged 92 km per week over the past 4 weeks, with 5 km per week being fast running (usually a Parkrun 5k). I think I'm close to that sweet spot of 5 to 10 % of mileage being fast with the rest being slow or easy. I suspect that for LSD training to work well, one needs to do a small percentage of weekly running fast. You can't leave it too long between fast efforts. If all running is slow for months at a time I imagine it would be difficult to switch on to a fast pace in a race.

My most recent race was an enjoyable 5k on the grass XC track at Stromlo (using the mountain course). I started easily, keeping my eye on the gradually reducing distance to Jim up ahead. I caught him on the U-turn just past the lake after 2k. It was just like the 'miracle mile' of 1954 when Bannister beat Landy — Jim looked over his left shoulder as Landy had done and I passed him on the right like the sneaky Bannister! On the second lap I closed on Natasha but couldn't quite catch up before the finish — 25:37 for her, 25:48 for myself and 26:52 for Jim. It had been a successful and enjoyable race once again.

Enjoying a hilly LSD run with the Speedygeese last Sunday

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Feeling fast at the Fisher's Ghost 5k

Last Sunday (13 November) I was up at well before the crack of dawn, leaving Jim's place at 4.30 AM for the drive to Campbelltown for the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run. This is a very well organised and enjoyable event held on roads within the campus of Western Sydney University. I ran the 10k in 2015 at tempo effort (53:40) but this year decided to race the 5k.

The course is on rolling hills — thankfully only one lap of them for the 5k! It's a tough course, definitely not one for PBs, but good for racing. My goal was to run as fast as possible and finish ahead of Jim! Both races started together and we were positioned about 20 metres back from the front amongst 710 runners and walkers (446 in the 5k and 264 in the 10k). Jim must have run to the inside of the first corner as I lost sight of him. I thought I was comfortably in front. Then at the top of the first climb at 1k I caught sight of him about 50 metres ahead. Sneaky bastard!

I opened up my stride down the hill and drew beside Jim before we commenced the next climb. Without changing my effort I edged ahead and then ran with the fear of the pursued. I breathed a sigh of relief on the out/back section of the course when I saw that I had a significant lead. By this time I was running mostly with youngsters and had a good race over the last 1500m with the girl who finished 3rd in the F10-11 category. She was running with and being encouraged by her father, so that's my excuse when she beat me by 2 seconds in a sprint finish. My chip time was 24:23, with Jim coming home in 26:19. I was happy with the time as Jim reckoned the hills were worth a minute over a regular flat Parkrun 5k.

We waited at the presentations with Norma, who had run the amazing time of 37:24 at the age of 87! Jim placed 2nd in the 60-69s and I was 3rd in the 50-59s so it had been a successful and happy morning for all. My takeaway from the race is that the higher volume training is paying off already. We'll see where my 5k time is in a month or so but I'm pretty sure it will be faster, so that's exciting.

Winners are grinners at the Fisher's Ghost Fun Run
Norma wins the 70+ category at the age of 87!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Finally, signs of running well again

I raced the Melbourne 10k back on 16 October, enjoying the weekend and catching up with Jo and Stu on race day. My finish time of 52:27 wasn't what I was hoping for when I entered the race in early August. I thought I'd break 50 minutes. Last year I ran 47:39. I was happy with how I raced, feeling strong (if not fast) until the bridge two kilometres out from the MCG finish.

I've been steadily building my mileage and Melbourne was in the midst of that so I may have been a little tired. For myself, I think having a good base of running mileage is important if I want to race well. I've backed off the cycling mileage to 'enjoyment' level — raced the E-Grade Vets' Stromlo Criterium last Tuesday and was dropped from the group early in the 25-minute race. My cycling muscles aren't what they were last year! My running mileage has been 70 kilometres per week for the past month and I can see that rising to 80 or so before holding that level for a while.

I had a very happy Parkrun last Saturday, finally breaking 25 minutes for 5k. 24:38 to be exact — Woohoo! Ran even splits on a calm, cool morning — 5:00, 4:52, 4:55, 4:56, 4:55. Finished 11 seconds behind my rival Jim (who is running well again). This was my fastest 5k race since 23 January when I ran 24:36 for the Bowral Parkrun, which is a harder course than Tuggers. On 9 January I ran 24:01 at Tuggeranong, interestingly at exactly the same 143 average heart rate as Saturday. I'm not quite as fit as I was before the illness and injury problems that have dogged the middle months of the year, but I'm close. Bring on the summer months of racing!

Caught up with Jo and Stu (taking the photo) before the start

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Canberra Times 10k Fun Run


This race was on September 4 and since then I've come down with a touch of the dreaded 'man flu' — totally annoying, as illness and injury are the two things to be avoided when building a base of fitness. I planned to 'run through' this race (no taper and minimal recovery) and it completed my biggest week of training this year, at a fairly modest 61 kilometres.

I took a rest day on the Saturday and lined up on Sunday with the goal of starting at around 5-minute kilometre pace. The plan commenced well although the 50-minute pacers gradually disappeared ahead (moving too fast it seems as my first splits were 4:56, 4:52 and 5:04 on the fastest section of the course). As I ran up the gentle hill at 4k I sensed I was catching my lifelong rival Jimmy and chipped away his 50 metre lead until we were level at 5k. The split there was 25:32 at the high point of the course. The Canberra Times is definitely a race for negative splitting experts like Mark Watson. Unfortunately on this day I pulled out a big fat positive split!

Jimmy flew past down the hill at 6k but I limited the damage by holding the gap to 30 metres or so as we turned onto Kings Avenue. My race was totally focussed on my rival, not on time. I placed a few runners between us so I'd be out of view if he took a look back. It worked! He seemed surprised when I ran up beside him on the bridge. Less than 2k to go, so I forged ahead, running as quickly as possible to the finish. 52:01 for myself and 52:33 for Jimmy so I'll count that as my first 'win' since March. Looking forward to more of the same once I'm over this annoying cold, ah, I mean flu!

I've been breaking in a pair of new Saucony Kinvaras from The Runner's Shop - nice light shoes!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

32 City to Surfs

I was so happy running down the last hill into Bondi Beach on Sunday 14 August, my 32nd City to Surf about to be completed. Two months ago I was carefully resuming running following a long break for the injured left calf. I put in my entry thinking that I'd be doing a lot of walking (which I did) but ended up completing the race quicker than expected — 85:06 for the 14k, an average of 6:05 per kilometre. Last year I ran 70:17, just failing to qualify for the 'Red' start group so I was a long way off that, but still happy.

My pre-race plan was to run to the bottom of 'Heartbreak Hill', walk up the hill before jogging and walking to the finish. That's pretty much what happened. I love it when a plan comes together! So, 5:27 ks on average to the 6k mark at the bottom of Heartbreak, then walking and jogging while taking some video of the race with my phone.

Since the City to Surf I've continued to gradually build my mileage (it's now around 50k per week) and as that's happened, my race fitness has improved. I ran in the Wagga Trail Marathon 5k on Saturday (which I think was longer than 5k) and was pleased to run the first 3k at under 5-minute pace. Splits went 4:53, 4:52, 4:57, 5:17 and 5:08 plus 1:17 for the extra bit. A sub-25-minute 5k is the immediate goal, then perhaps something close to 23 minutes by the end of the year.


Phone video of my 32nd Sydney City to Surf

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back racing, and loving it!

My slow and steady comeback to running continues to go well. I've been competing in short races (around the 5k distance) and in doing these, I realise how much I miss the thrill of racing. I possess a very strong competitive gene! The unknown Formula One driver Jean Behra once said, "Life is racing, the rest is waiting." Yes, a seemingly extreme life philosophy, but one that applies to my own running. Don't get me wrong — I do enjoy the simple act of running (the movement; being in nature; the camaraderie of runners), but I love racing.

An unexpected upside of this return from injury is being taken back to my running roots as a 23-year-old enthusiastic newbie. Every couple of days I can feel my fitness improving (and the data from the Garmin backs that up). The graph is steadily pointing skyward. This is exciting, but I have the knowledge that the graph will eventually flatten. A truth that my naive 20-something self didn't think would happen until I was running 30 minutes for 10 kilometres. Sounds crazy, but I had no coach and no idea. In reality I reached my peak as a 37-minute 10k runner.

On the 17th of July I ran in a race where, for a few kilometres, I was thinking 'wow, I'm flying along, passing runners, blasting along this muddy trail, feeling young again!' The race was the Sri Chinmoy Gungahlin Gallop 10k Trail Race — up on a muddy single-track to the top of this bloody big hill and back down again. I finished in the middle of the pack (probably towards the rear of the middle!) and my time of 75 minutes was woefully slow for a 10k, but my body and mind were for once co-existing in a place familiar to all runners. Greedy I know, but I want more of that.

Racing down the hill (recalling my days as a steeplechaser) in the Gungahlin Gallop 10k [John Harding photo]

My video, mostly showing runners in the 30k

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A month of tentative running done


This coming back business is a slow process! I ran the Lake Stakes 6k today — really it was a 5k run as the first kilometre was my warm-up walk. 5k in 31:45 with an average heart rate of 137 (well over MAF HR) for 870 heart beats per kilometre. My calf was good, but I'm still being ever so careful, shuffling along, with very little force being applied to the ground. I felt a twinge in the upper calf (not the original injury area) last Thursday and had three days rest from running.

I've run 76 kilometres over the past 4 weeks, most of that being gentle treadmill running, accustoming the legs to the running movement and gradually building up some leg strength. It's been going well until that twinge last week. I raced a 5k cross country event at Stromlo on 25 June finishing 3rd last in 28:21. Average heart rate for that race was 138 for 782 heart beats per kilometre, so today's race was a small slip on the game of snakes and ladders.

The plan for the next couple of months is to continue building the mileage and run Parkrun 5ks and races at racing HR effort (145ish) for my only hard weekly session. My eventual goal for weekly running volume is 6 hours per week, supplemented by cycling mileage. If I was a fast runner I'd be covering over 90k in 6 hours, which is sufficient volume to run well. For me it will be around 60k, so all I've got to do is get from 20 to 60! Phew!

Organiser Peter with his '300 runs' shirt at the Lake Stakes today. [P Thommo photo]

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I finished 289th in a 5k

It was with much relief that I finished the inaugural Burley Griffin Parkun on Saturday morning. I ran the 5k with my left calf entirely happy — feeling no different to my right calf. It was my longest pain-free run since March 17 when I ran 5000 metres on the track in 25:13.07 and damaged the left soleus with 2 laps to go. So it was quite a relief when I crossed the finish line on Saturday, albeit in the slow time of 31:26.

My tactic for the run was to move smoothly and easily, using no power on the gentle uphill sections of the course. I employed the ultramarathoner's 'Cliffy shuffle' running style, gliding over the ground with minimal push-off from the toes. My plan is to gradually build some running muscle strength by increasing the distance of my regular runs over time.

One thing I found interesting about Saturday's run is how aerobically unfit I am for running! My average heart rate was 141, exactly the same as for the 5k track race back in March, yet I was over 6 minutes slower. Apparently 250 to 300 kilometres of cycling per week doesn't make you a fit runner! How long it takes to get back to 25 minutes for 5k, let alone my 22-minute goal time will be found out in due course. I remember tearing my right soleus in the 2006 City to Surf but that injury only took me 4 weeks to overcome. Eight weeks later I could run 4:43 km pace for 3k. I think it'll take a tad longer this time. I'm a tad older after all!
Running on a damp path in the 1st Burley Griffin Parkrun
A 'Cliffy shuffle' got me to the finish line in one piece!